In the current work in progress, The Peach Widow, Argolicus visits a farm to settle a dispute between two sons and their stepmother.
A farm. The farmer needs a dog. So, off I went to do some research for possible candidates for the farmer’s dog.
Writing about the early 6th Century in Italy requires a lot of extrapolation because the Emperor Justinian did everything possible to erase all trace of Theodoric and the Ostrogoths in Italy.
I started by looking for Roman dogs. The Romans had two strains of dogs guard dogs and hunting dogs. Farmers used dogs to guard their home, the land, and livestock.
Columella categorized dogs in his De Re Rustica (Rustic Things). He had advice for hunting dogs and for farm dogs. He suggests white dogs to distinguish them easily from wolves. Then he goes on to describe the best dog for a farm.
The farm-yard dog should be heavily built, with a large head, drooping ears, bright eyes, a broad and shaggy chest, wide shoulders, thick legs, and short tail. Because it is expected to stay close to the house and granary, a lack of speed is not important.
I was narrowing down on the dog. They require a studded collar to protect their neck. The dog should be trained to sleep in the house during the day so he can guard the farm at night.
I switched out the white dog for sheep and the black dog for terrifying thieves and came up with a white dog. While I went down a dog photo rabbit hole and read about Molossian dogs, the base of modern day mastiffs, one detail caught my attention.
In the Satyricon, Trimalchio has an enormous Molossian named Scylax (Pup), brought in on a chain and introduced to his guests as guardian of the house and slaves.
Of course, the giant white farm dog in the story must be named Pup.